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Welcome to this detailed DDT Product Review of Eerdman’s NICNT Romans

commentary by Douglas Moo (henceforth in this review to be referred to as

simply “NICNT Romans”.) No matter what “version” of this work that you are

interested in, you’ll find out what’s most important about it: the content.

 

I want to give you enough information to make sure that you are an informed

buyer. I also want you to know right up front my theological perspective so you’ll

be able to understand what I write (I think that’s important, and I’m quite sure

you’ll agree!).

 

Finally, I know that you’ve already looked at the DDT Rating, so you already know

the conclusion: this is a great resource for everyone, regardless of doctrine and

denomination. Now, let us commence with the Review!

 

 

Introductory Comments

 

Douglas Moo is the next author to publish a commentary on the book of Romans in the NICNT series. His 1,000 page tome has replaced the two volume edition previously authored by John Murray. It should be noted that Murray’s commentary was so good, that Eerdman’s republished it as a stand alone commentary on Romans, and is still available from the publisher. That’s how good Moo’s work is: it has replaced a classic.

 

Moo is a leader in the Neo-Evangelical movement. He taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school for twenty years, and is now at Wheaton College. He has served on the NIV Committee on Bible Translation since 1997. So, his academic credentials are superb.

 

Moo’s Work in Romans

 

Moo was initially involved in writing on the Book of Romans for Moody Press. He published a book that was part of the Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary series on the first 8 chapters of Romans. He intended to write a second volume finishing the book of Romans, but Moody canceled the Wycliffe series. Since he had a substantial part of the second volume written, he decided to “shop it,” to see if someone else would be interested in publishing his work. Eerdman’s was. Very.

 

The Wycliffe series had been Greek intensive, where the NICNT series is English based. So, Moo had a lot of work to do. He completely reformatted his Greek Wycliffe commentary (with permission) to fit the English format of the NICNT. All pertinent Greek information was still included - but now in the footnotes. He continued that format through all 16 chapters of Romans.

 

But Moo’s head (and heart) was so full of information on the Book of Romans he wrote again - not one more book, but two! And they are all different! Whether or not you agree with what he writes, we can all agree on this: Doug Moo knows the Book of Romans.

 

Expositional & Doctrinal Overview

 

Let’s take a look at some of the critical components of a commentary: Expositional skill of the author, and the Doctrinal grid the author writes with.

 

Moo pays very careful attention to a proper exposition of Scripture. And with more than a 1,000 pages, you’ve already figured out that he writes with a tremendous amount of detail. While the thrust of the NICNT is on the English text, the heart of his exposition is Greek exegesis. Again, while you may not always agree with his conclusions, you’ll have to “prove it to yourself” because of his consistency in dealing with the text. For those unacquainted with the Greek language, the main body of the text is very accessible. The technical aspects of the Greek work is contained in the footnotes. While I’m sure it made for a great deal of work on Moo’s part, the final result is rather pleasing for the reader - and all of the material is still there for the student. Well done, Mr. Moo!

 

He does not handle his exposition with any type of allegorical method at all (except for where the text is obviously allegorical!). His method is historical-grammatical-literal - a real treat for the expositor.

 

Just as important as the method a commentary uses to exposit a text is the theological grid of the author. Every student will want to know what his teacher believes.

 

First, Moo taught at Trinity/Deefield and Wheaton. Both of those school are thoroughly Neo-Evangelical. Also, Moo is heavily involved with the NIV. Those facts are leading indicators of his theology.

 

The Editor’s Preface states that Moo is both Evangelical and Reformed:

 

But if this volume in some ways inaugurates a new day for the series, it also has some strong ties to the past. This series began in a context of evangelical theology that was also decidedly within the Reformed tradition. It is therefore fitting that the replacement commentary on Romans in particular, originally written by John Murray (professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary), should be written by someone whose theological sympathies lie in this direction.

 

Moo, though, does not always “stay on the plantation” in the Reformed position. He is pre-millennial in his eschatology; but his understanding of the Rapture is post-tribulational. (It should be noted that Romans has very little eschatological teaching in it; so this topic does not have much direct application to NICNT Romans.) Also, in Romans 9-11, he seems to distinguish between Israel and the Church, which is a key tenet of dispensationalism.

 

Now, let me insert a word of warning: Moo is far from a conservative. Consider this quote about Protestants and Catholics from Rom 3:26-

 

Despite important and welcome moves toward reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics, the division between the two groups over justification remains. In an age that minimizes doctrine, there is a danger that this difference will be too easily swept under the carpet. But it is a significant one, affecting one’s understanding of salvation, the sacraments, assurance, and other matters both doctrinal and practical.

 

That noise you now hear are conservatives (like me) gasping. “Important and welcome moves toward reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics”? I’d like to think he’s just kidding; but of course, he’s not. Quotes like that above serve to emphasize one of the major differences between Neo-Evangelicals and conservative evangelicals: the practical aspect of separation. So, just be forewarned that those occasional statements are made by Moo. (Note: what’s odd is that in context, the above quote has nothing to do with the interpretation/exposition of the text. I guess he added it to make sure you knew he was a neo- and not a conservative.)

 

Knowing that Moo is writing from a Reformed position will greatly aid the expositor in his use of this commentary. Also knowing his lack of separation will allow the user to be a little wary of his application. I must say, though, as a fundamental non-Reformed dispensationalist, that using NICNT Romans has thus far been a real pleasure.

 

Commentary Sample

 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a commentary sample is worth, well, what is it worth? Not sure! But here is a representative entry from the commentary. This one is from Rom 3:24 (please note: the digital text comes from the premium resource formatted for TheWord Bible Software).

 

The connection between this verse and the previous verses is not clear. Those who think a pre-Pauline fragment begins here find in the difficult transition evidence for a shift from Paul’s original dictation to the citation of a tradition. But whatever his dependence on tradition, Paul is himself composing the verses, and we need to determine what connection he intends. The participle “being justified” [37] is most naturally taken as a modifier of one or both of the finite verbs in v. 23: “sinned” and/or “falling short.” If so, Paul’s purpose in highlighting the gift character of justification in the participial clause would presumably be to provide evidence for the total religious impotence of humanity. [38] The objection to this interpretation is that it gives to a verse (24) that continues the main theme of the paragraph (justification/righteousness) a relatively subordinate role. Scholars suggest several other ways of relating this participle to its context, [39] but perhaps the best suggestion is Cranfield’s. He argues that “being justified” is dependent on v. 23, to the extent that it has as its subject “all,” but that it also picks up and continues the main theme of the paragraph from vv. 21–22a. With this we would agree, with the caveat that “all” in its connection with “being justified” indicates not universality (“everybody”) but lack of particularity (“anybody”). Paul’s stress on the gift character of justification in v. 24 illuminates from the positive side the “lack of distinction” in God’s dealings (vv. 22b–23) even as it continues and explains the theme of “righteousness by faith” from v. 22a.

 

Paul uses the verb “justify” (dikaioō) for the first time in Romans to depict his distinctive understanding of Christian salvation. As Paul uses it in these contexts, the verb “justify” means not “to make righteous” (in an ethical sense) nor simply “to treat as righteous” (though one is really not righteous), but “to declare righteous.” No “legal fiction,” but a legal reality of the utmost significance, “to be justified” means to be acquitted by God from all “charges” that could be brought against a person because of his or her sins. [40] This judicial verdict, for which one had to wait until the last judgment according to Jewish theology, is according to Paul rendered the moment a person believes. The act of justification is therefore properly “eschatological,” as the ultimate verdict regarding a person’s standing with God is brought back into our present reality.

 

Characteristic also of Paul’s theology is his emphasis on the gift character of this justifying verdict; we are “justified freely [41] by his grace.” [42] “Grace” is one of Paul’s most significant theological terms. [43] He uses it typically not to describe a quality of God but the way in which God has acted in Christ: unconstrained by anything beyond his own will. [44] God’s justifying verdict is totally unmerited. People have done, and can do, nothing to earn it. This belief is a “theological axiom” for Paul and is the basis for his conviction that justification can never be attained through works, or the law (cf. Rom. 4:3–5, 13–16; 11:6), but only through faith. [45] Once this is recognized, the connection between v. 22a and v. 24 is clarified; that justification is a matter of grace on God’s side means that it must be a matter of faith on the human side. But the gracious nature of justification also answers to the dilemma of people who are under the power of sin (v. 23). As Pascal says, “Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint; and he who doubts it does not know what a saint or a man is.”[46]

 

What gives this paragraph its unparalleled significance is the number of perspectives from which God’s justification of sinners is considered. If “freely by his grace” indicates the mode of justification, as entirely free and unmerited, “through the redemption” illumines the costly means by which this acquitting verdict is rendered possible. “Redemption” [47] means, basically, “liberation through payment of a price.” Thus, in the second and first centuries B.C., “redemption” often refers to the “ransoming” of prisoners of war, slaves, and condemned criminals. [48] If “redemption” has this connotation here, then Paul would be presenting Christ’s death as a “ransom,” a “payment” that takes the place of that penalty for sins “owed” by all people to God. [49] Though widely rejected today, [50] this interpretation of the significance of the word should be retained. [51] While it is not clear whether Paul was thinking specifically of slave manumissions when he applied the word to Christian salvation, [52] it is likely that Paul views sin as that power from which we need to be liberated (cf. 3:9). [53] If we ask further the question “To whom was the ‘ransom’ paid?” it is not clear that we need to answer it. The usage of the word makes it clear that there need be no specific person who “receives” the “payment.” Certainly we are not to think of Christ’s death as a payment of God made to Satan, a view that became very popular in the first centuries of the Christian church. A more biblical answer, and one that might be implied by v. 25, would be that God, the judge who must render just verdicts, is the recipient of the ransom. If so, an equal emphasis must be placed on the fact that God is also the originator of the liberating process.

 

As he does in Eph. 1:7 and Col. 1:14, Paul adds that this redemption is “in Christ Jesus.” It is not clear whether Paul means by it that the liberation was accomplished by Christ at the cross or that the liberation occurs “in relation to” Christ, whenever sinners trust Christ. [54] Favoring the latter, however, is the connection of “redemption” with the forgiveness of sins in Eph. 1:7 and Col. 1:14, and 1 Cor. 1:30: “Christ was made … our redemption.” While, then, the “price” connoted by the word “redemption” was “paid” at the cross in the blood of Christ, the redeeming work that the payment made possible is, like justification, applied to each person when he or she believes.

 

This section is fairly representative as to how Moo handles the text.

 

Conclusion

 

A 1,000 page commentary on a 16 chapter Bible book is obviously not written on a simple level. Not hardly. Some mature in the faith will struggle with the text. It is written toward the academic, not the casual Bible reader. However, it is an excellent resource.

 

All in all, Moo’s commentary on Romans is going to rank high on anyone’s scale, no matter what particular doctrinal filter is applied. Many consider it the best commentary on Romans ever written. I’ll hold off from going that far. However, I will say, that no matter what your theological background is, this commentary will do what a good commentary is supposed to do: help you handle the text. With that in mind, this is a great commentary suitable for use by all people.

 

Other Reviews

 

Amazon.com offers 25 reviews (as of Februrary, 2012). Average rating: A Perfect 5.0 stars. Read them here.

 

 

Purchase NICNT Romans Here

 

Purchase NICNT Romans formatted for theWord Bible Software

Purchase NICNT Romans hardcover from Amazon.com

 

 

This comprehensive review is by Dr. David S. Thomason. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

REVIEW: Eerdman’s NICNT Romans by Douglas Moo

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This 1,000+ page commentary on the Book of Romans by Douglas Moo is often regarded as the single best commentary on the Book of Romans ever written. While I don’t go that far, it certainly is a Great Resource for Everyone!

DDT Rating

 

Great Resource for Everyone

DDT_Ratings_System

No Greek Necessary

Greek Essential

Language Skills Needed

Brief

Sufficient

Verbose

Entry Length

Leans Left

Unbiased

Leans Right

Theological Bias

Disciple

Pastoral

Theologian

Academic Target